Make-A-Wish shopping spree cheers Esther up
When Esther Pekepo was diagnosed with T-cell panniculitis lymphoma, a rare form of cancer, her reaction was different to most.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
"At first I didn't know, when I heard lymphoma I thought ‘sweet I don't have cancer'," she says. "I didn't know it was the same thing."
It wasn't until she took to the internet to do some research that she learned what it meant.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation has stepped in to cheer up the brave 19-year-old from the Cook Islands as she prepares for three months of gruelling chemotherapy.
The charity organisation gave her $2000 to spend at Sylvia Park.
"Being away from home I have faced a lot of financial difficulties and it was a really good experience especially getting the necessities like a TV, bed and drawers, that would set me up for later on as well," she says. "I created a haven for myself.
"It's going to be handy because I'm going to be doing a lot of treatment."
Ms Pekepo's symptoms started with lumps on her chest and arms in 2011.
Her temperature would fluctuate from being extremely hot to really cold and she lost her appetite.
"I had biopsies and bone marrow biopsies and more blood tests and more doctors.
"I had heaps of [medical] people being really curious with what I had. I felt like I was in an episode of House."
Ms Pekepo starts six cycles of chemotherapy the day after the Pasifika Festival finishes on March 10.
This year all gold coin donations collected during the two day festival at Western Springs will go to Make-A-Wish New Zealand.
Ms Pekepo has so far relied on the goodwill of friends because her parents and three sisters and brother live in the Cook Islands.
One of her sisters is travelling to New Zealand in time for her second round of chemotherapy, and the pair will move Ms Pekepo from her Mangere Bridge flat to Newmarket to be closer to Auckland Hospital.
She says the shopping spree "made me feel like I can still live a little."
"I'm really grateful for the experience that I had.
"Everyone I met was so nice and made me feel like I was on some sort of pedestal and made me feel loved."
Pasifika is delivered by ATEED and supported by Fairfax Media, publisher of the East & Bays Courier.
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